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All's Well That Ends Well | Study Guide

William Shakespeare

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All's Well That Ends Well | Symbols


Bertram's Ring

Bertram's ring in All's Well That Ends Well assumes a variety of meanings. First, it is a symbol of Bertram's family and his legacy and, therefore, represents something he never intends Helen to share. As a result, the ring also becomes a symbol of the impossible challenge Bertram gives Helen as a requirement to becoming his wife. This representation of family pride and honor later becomes a metaphor for Bertram's deceitful nature when he uses it as a pledge of marriage in order to seduce Diana, and proof he has been lying to her and the king. When Helen finally does meet Bertram's challenge, though, the ring represents her triumph.

War Drums

War drums become a sort of shorthand for war itself in the play. Bertram swears to the god Mars he will become "[a] lover of thy drum" as he prepares to go into battle. An actual drum later becomes the undoing of Parolles when it is lost during battle. Parolles grandly proclaims it a symbol of their victory in battle, and he insists on being allowed to go look for it, never expecting anyone to let him. However, at the coaxing of First Lord Dumaine and Second Lord Dumaine, who want to shame Parolles, Bertram agrees the drum is an "instrument of honor" and encourages Parolles to fetch it. When the cowardly Parolles is unable to fulfill his mission and is captured instead, the drum becomes a reminder of the trouble his boasting has gotten him into, and he says, "I'll no more drumming. A plague of / all drums!" Unfortunately for Parolles, his name becomes synonymous with his folly, with Lafew jokingly referring to him as Tom Drum.

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